Thérèse Casgrain and Vanishing Women

Update (April 11, 2016) – Happy to say part of this post is now irrelevant. Just as I predicted the Liberal government plans to rename the National Volunteer Award after Casgrain.

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.

In the Globe and Mail, “Feminist disappears from public history under Harper government,” (July 27, 2014), details the erasure of Thérèse Casgrain, a feminist icon in Quebec, by the Harper government.

Thérèse Casgrain during her 1967 election run.

While Canadian women won the right to vote in 1918, (excluding Manitoba, which granted the right in 1916), women’s suffrage in Quebec was denied until 1940. Casgrain not only led the women’s suffrage movement in Quebec, but she became the first female leader of a political party in Canada, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). Also, she founded the League for Human Rights and the Fédération des femmes du Québec and was appointed to the Senate by Trudeau in 1970.

In 1982, following her death in the year prior, the Trudeau government created The Therese Casgrain Volunteer Award. This award can’t seem to catch a break! It was ended by the Mulroney government in 1990, brought back by Chretien in 2001, and now the Harper government has replaced it with the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. In addition, Casgrain’s image, along with the Famous Five, was removed from our $50 bill in 2012.

Attempting to erase women and their accomplishments from history is nothing new; it has been going on since people first began to record history and something I could dedicate a whole blog to. However, this just seems really pathetic. I mean, what good comes from changing an award’s name? What good comes from replacing iconic Canadian women with a ship? Sorry, but I refuse to believe that an Arctic icebreaker is more Canadian than human rights. Harper and the Conservatives sure are determined to continue their assault on women’s issues.

On top of all this, his government commissioned a $51,000 focus group study and found that there was “strong resistance to naming a volunteer award after the prime minister” but they still went ahead with it! I wonder how much money was wasted on the changes they made.


On the bright side though, if the Liberals win in 2015, I’m pretty sure Trudeau will change the award name back to the original.


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